Fort Birthday

B is for Bear

Toddler Alphabet Games: matching Letters and Animals

My twins are 3 years old and off “school” for the summer. So I did what every self respecting mother in the history of the world does, I got some work books and did a pinterest search for toddler alphabet games. We sat down at the table with them and my toddlers took one look at them and said, “No way, Momma. That’s work.”

They are reveling in their discovery that frustrating my efforts to reinforce their knowledge drives me bananas. I’m pulling my hair out because they won’t show Grandma that they know their letters. And everyone knows that trotting out toddler tricks is a Mother’s best currency with her Mother-In-Law.

L is for Lion Toddler Alphabet Games
It’s hard to tell, but this is a lion. And don’t you dare suggest otherwise.

Know your kids. Toddler Alphabet games come in many varieties

I’m not a home-schooly mom. But I hit on a technique that spurred some excitement about letter recognition. I think the keys are physical activity and competition.

Physical activity

My kids learn things with one million percent less grief if I can add a physical component to the activity. Even something as simple as “reading” in their yoga Hammocks seems to do the trick. Or combining two activities: climb the cushion mountain to get the pieces for the puzzle. And so forth.

C is for Crab Maryland Blue Crab
No Toddler Alphabet games would be complete without C is for Crab. Blue crab, that is.


When my guys were 32 weekers in the NICU I would tell them, “Compete for Momma’s Love! Your brother nursed for 3 whole minutes. I bet you can do better than that!” Or “whoever gets off their TPA first Momma loves best.”

Twin Turtles Toddlers Toy abcs and animals
These little Ty Turtles aren’t just turtles they are Twin Terrapins. My guys are my Baby Turtles these two were their reward and cheering section for swim lessons last year.

I don’t say that stuff out loud anymore – I think it, but I don’t say it. And I’m pretty sure that saying it in the NICU probably didn’t damage them for life (crosses fingers). But keying into siblings innate desire to one-up each other seems to light a fire under them in terms of trying new things.

So I give you: Toddler alphabet games ABCs and Animals, Scavenger Hunt Edition

The idea was simple. It only took a tiny bit of prep work. I raided my twins’ stash of stuffed animals and ‘hid’ them all around the house and yard. Most of them were outside. It’s summer, go out side and play, after all.

E is for eagles BALD eagles
The Eagles ‘flew’ into Nana’s hanging basket and were hard to find.
So keep your targets at eye level or below.

I loaded a selection of 10-15 into a laundry basket and I took about 5 minutes doing this.

I took three sets of letters from around the house and heaped them in a pile (of course, not a single one of those sets is complete). Then I told the boys they needed to match the letters to the animals that were hiding. Annnndd..

Whoever finishes first is the WINNER.

What do they win: my respect. That’s all. But different kids might be motivated by more tangible rewards.

M is for mouse - but it's really a rat
I thought it was funny to put a mouse in the kitchen.
But they were mad at me cause it’s really a RAT. Well, I couldn’t find any Rs.
At least three sets of alphabets and NOT one single R to be found.

The fun part – let your kids be creative with how they think about their ABCs. Toddler alphabet games don’t need to have “right” answers

Let your toddlers explain to you why they made the choices they did. It may surprise you.

Toddler Alphabet Games
I was initially irritated when BOTH of my kids threw letters in the pool.
And this is where you can see the difference in how my twins think.
I is for Insect. And B is for Beetle.
And they were both right cause my pool is full of dead ones of many varieties.

When I put out the letters I had certain answers in mind. Imagine my surprise when one of my kids ran upstairs with his letter. I didn’t put any animals upstairs. Welp. Score one for Team Toddler. I thought P would be for Pelicans.

Specifically the pelicans on the pillows on my patio furniture.

My brain liked the alliteration too much to remember that P is also for the Parrot upstairs in their room.

Alphabet scavenger hunt
We used more than one set of letters to encourage recognition. These Little Tykes bathtub letters have lived a hard life – check out the ‘A’ – but are well loved.

A was for Alligator, but the alligator didn’t get a letter. Poor guy. So I asked where the A was..

A is for Ant
A was for ANT. But I was assured that there WAS an Ant there. But it MOVED.
Imagine a super indignant toddler telling you this.
note the teeth marks

They didn’t forget the A, they just picked Ant instead.

Pro Tip: Have the kids return with the Animals AND the letters and make it a sort of relay

I didn’t think of this until I realized that all the letters were distributed. Because then I had to remember where I put all the animals and which letters were in the mix so I could collect as many letters and animals as possible. It would have made sense to have the system be: Take a letter, bring back an animal, get another letter, until all the letters are gone.

It would have been fun to make a “finish line” with a side for each boy to total their animals up and declare a winner. As it stood, I was the real winner because this kept them busy for at least 15 whole minutes. And y’all know that’s infinity in toddler twin time.

D is for DOG but not a stuffed dog
I’m holding the D that my twins wanted to put on their Dog.
She wouldn’t hold still for a picture with them doing it. I feel like they could have done C is for Crackie. But they were insistent on D is for DOG.

Toddler alphabet games aren’t just about learning

Turns out, my kids think more creatively than my old hide-bound self. And when I give them the latitude to do so, the results are delightful. I love words. And I hope that my kids can develop the kind of relationship I have with the english language early in life. It will serve them well.

Toddler ABCs alphabet games scavenger hunt for boys and toys
This Jelly Cat Fox has been part of the boy’s life since day one. It’s name is Ding-Ding (long story) and each boy now has one. And both boys knew that F was for Fox.

Sometimes Toddler alphabet games are just fun

Try and remember that while we all want our toddlers to be little geniuses, the real work of being a toddler is play. Also, this activity essentially proved to me that my twins play dumb with me when I ask them to identify their letters. They know way more than they are willing to admit to under interrogation settings.

Hope everyone is having a great time this week. – Leah

Toddler Alphabet Games letter recognition practice ABCs and animals scavenger hunt
B is for Bear
This Bear has been around since the boys were born. It (and it’s twin) were handmade by one of my childhood neighborhood Moms including the sweaters!
Alphabet Scavenger Hunt matching ABCs with Animals

We share in Fort Birthday


  • Love the scavenger hunt idea! I did not think about trying that with letters! We usually do scavenger hunts for diff outdoor items like twigs, rocks, just to get outside more!

    • Leah Wade

      I swear, my guys drive me crazy with the letters and they KNOW it. This made them think about something different so they didn't have time to jerk me around by pretending they didn't know what "M" was. Those little tricksters.

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